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By Fae Holin
Managing Editor, Hay & Forage Grower
Andrew Clarkson, Oakley, IL, is finding some innovative ways to sell hay
and straw – by contracting and by using Craig’s List and Facebook.
Last year, Clarkson and his wife, Jessica, produced nearly 5,000 small
square bales of alfalfa-grass hay, sold mostly to horse owners and the
local Amish community. They also baled some rye straw.
Although they sell 60-70% of their crop via their Web site, www.clarksonfarms.com, this past
year they also contracted hay with a local customer.
“I said, ‘We know that you’re going to use roughly 300 bales all
winter. Why don’t I lock you in at that and put it in our shed if
you’ll give me your word that you’ll buy it until it’s gone?’
Another grower wants to do the same thing this year, Clarkson adds.
“He said, ‘I want 300 bales of your second and third cuttings, and I
want to speak for it now before anyone gets to it.’ ”
It’s tough to lock in a price, Clarkson says. “But it’s money in
the bank. He’s going to spend that money with me, and I’m willing to
trade possibly a little bit higher price for the guarantee that he’s
going to get it. The one rule I’ve made, though, is if I can’t trust
the person, I don’t do business with him.”
Clarkson, who commutes to a fulltime job from the eastern side of
Decatur to Harristown on the city's west side, also posted straw for
sale on Craig’s List. “I got on Craig’s List in September and put
on, ‘Hey, if you need straw, I’m driving through Decatur every day.
For a $20 minimum charge, I’ll deliver anywhere in the metro area of
Decatur for $4/bale.’ And I got cleaned out by November doing that.”
He also was able to write off mileage to work as a farm expense, he
So far, Clarkson has had one hay sale using Facebook, a type of social
media that he started using in January. For more on Clarkson’s
experience with Facebook, see our social media stories in the May issue
of Hay & Forage Grower. Or visit hayandforage.com and search for
To contact Clarkson, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call
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The final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready
alfalfa remains on track to be completed this year, says Sid Abel of
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
That’s despite comments made by attorneys arguing in front of the U.S.
Supreme Court last week. The oral arguments were part of Monsanto vs.
Geertson Seed Farms, a case in which the company is challenging the 2007
injunction that prohibited the sale and planting of Roundup Ready
alfalfa seed until an impact statement is completed.
Two attorneys arguing for Monsanto told the court that APHIS now
estimates that the EIS will be ready in about a year.
“We were very cautious in responding to the court’s request on how
long it might take just because a lot of the processes are out of our
control in terms of getting things done,” says Abel. “Our hopes are
to still get it completed by the end of the year.”
For more on last Tuesday’s oral arguments, see “RR
Alfalfa Attorneys Argue Before Supreme Court.”
A program aimed to help Minnesota alfalfa growers with first-crop
harvest scheduling has started in the central part of the state.
In the University of Minnesota (UM) Extension alfalfa scissors-cut
harvest-alert program, several alfalfa fields are sampled for
standing-crop quality every Monday and Thursday. Results from the
sampling are shared on local radio stations, online at the Minnesota Crop News Web
site and via a call-in, phone messaging system – 800-964-4929,
“Cool weather is slowing growth,” says Dan Martens, UM Extension
educator in Stearns, Benton and Morrison counties. First cutting may not
be two weeks ahead of schedule, but growers should be prepared to take
first harvest earlier than normal, he adds.
There are some exceptions, says Martens. Forage stands that shouldn’t
be harvested “early” include those that will be fed to animals with
low to medium nutritional needs and stands that suffered some winter
injury. “Those stands could need more time to build below-ground
energy reserves to power second-crop growth. Also, if you need more
effective fiber in your ration, allowing more maturation before first
harvest may make sense.”
For more information on the scissors-cut program, call Martens at
320-968-5077 or visit the University of Minnesota
Extension forage Web site. The Central Minnesota Forage and
Grassland Council is co-sponsoring the program with Extension.
Prices for small square bales of straw averaged $2.70/bale in the
Upper Midwest as of April 30, reports the University of Wisconsin’s
Ken Barnett in his Weekly
Hay Market Demand and Price Report for the Upper Midwest.
That’s down 35% from those of the previous week.
Large square bales were fetching an average of $20.30, down 1% from the
previous week’s average price. At an average of $26, large round bale
prices were steady compared with prices of a week earlier.
$16.43 Per-bale custom hay harvest rate
(cutting, raking, baling) in Missouri for large round bales weighing
1,000-1,500 lbs, according to the University
of Missouri’s 2009 custom-rate guide #302. For 750- to 1,000-lb
bales, the average custom harvest rate was $15.33/bale.
$20 Annual subscription fee for the
traditional print version of the Crop and Pest Report newsletter
from the North Dakota State University Extension Service. Readers can
access a free online version
of the newsletter. The first report for this growing season will be
available in mid-May.
$250 Per-ton price drop for anhydrous ammonia
fertilizer between April 2009 and April 2010 in the North Central Region
of the U.S., according to a recent Purdue
University report (search for fertilizer prices). During the same
time frame, potassium prices declined by $350/ton and phosphate dropped
$33,417 Median 2009 net farm income of more
than 3,000 Minnesota farms enrolled in the Minnesota State Colleges and
Universities Farm Business Management Education Program. That’s a 66%
drop from the 2008 figure. Reduced profits for nearly all livestock
producers, higher costs for crop producers and large reductions in the
value of crop and livestock inventories were factors in the decrease.
See a report
from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial
|Hay & Forage Grower – Digital
Get all of the features of Hay & Forage Grower print editions
with all the interactive capabilities only available online.
Here's a sneak preview of the highlights of the May issue:
Click here to view
the digital edition.
- Maximizing Returns
- Steam-Cooked Hay
- Why Use Social Media?
- Getting More From Millet
An unusual, month-long stretch of wet weather continues to hamper the
start of the first-crop alfalfa harvest in the northern San Joaquin
Valley. “We’re about a full month behind,” says Stockton grower
Mike Robinson. In a typical year, most growers in his area start first
cutting in late March/early April, he notes. As of early last week, he
hadn’t cut any of his 500 acres of alfalfa. “Some people in the area
did get a few fields cut before all the rain started, but just about all
of that hay has been rained on two or three times.”
Robinson says the late start will likely crimp quality. “It’s been
cool enough that the hay didn’t get over-mature. It will still be
dairy hay, but the TDN is likely to be in that 53-55 range rather than
the 56-58 range that is considered the real primo dairy stuff. As for
prices, there really hasn’t been any good hay taken off to set a
Robinson cut his alfalfa acreage in half this year in order to devote
more acres to tomatoes, a higher-value crop. In the future, he’ll
likely increase alfalfa acres again. “We got a little out of sync with
our rotation,” he says.
Most of his alfalfa is put up in large square bales destined for the
dairy market. He also produces 350 acres of hay from oats, beardless
wheat and a forage mix. That’s put up in large squares and small
three-string squares and most is marketed through his animal feed
manufacturing business, Robinson Farms Feed Co.
Some growers could lose one cutting of alfalfa this season, Robinson
says. Most growers in the area take six to seven cuttings a year.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what the weather is like this
Bottom line, he says, the unexpected April rain has been a two-edged
sword. “We’re not accustomed to this kind of late spring/early
summer rainfall,” he says. “It’s been good for the new plantings
of alfalfa and other crops. But we’re farmers. We want to get going
with the harvest.”
To contact Robinson, call 209-466-7915 or email email@example.com.
A warm and open winter has the alfalfa crop off to a good start in the
northeastern part of the state, says grower Kathy Olmstead. “Last
year, we had nearly 5’ of snow,” says Olmstead, who, with her
husband, Joe, owns JKO Ranch near Chattaroy. “This year we didn’t
plow any snow.”
As a result, their alfalfa plants were 4-6” tall by mid-April.
“Ordinarily, we don’t see that until mid-May,” she says. While the
crop has gotten taller earlier, it’s maturing at the usual rate. So if
the weather remains favorable, they’ll be on track to start first
cutting in early to mid-June, about normal in their area.
The Olmsteads also put up alfalfa-grass on 60 acres and harvest another
320 acres for 21 landlords. All of the hay is put up as large round
bales weighing around 900 lbs. Their market is roughly a 50-50 mix of
small horse owners in the Spokane area (about 25 miles from the ranch)
and local beef producers. They feed their lower-quality hay to their
herd of registered Limousin cattle.
Last year, the Olmsteads put up 700 tons of hay. Most of that sold at an
across-the-board price of $140/ton. For the 60-70 bales they have left
to sell, they’ll drop the price to $100/ton. “We need to get it out
of the barn to make room for new crop,” says Kathy. “We’d rather
sell it at a lower price than have to stack it outside.”
On a side note: The Olmsteads will be co-hosting the Northeast
Washington Hay Growers Association Annual Field Day on May 15. Joe is
president of the association. See an online meeting
To contact the Olmsteads, call 509-292-2604 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
While alfalfa weevil damage has been spotty in much of Nebraska
over the past few years, growers will want to keep a close watch on
fields for signs of damage over the next several weeks, says University
of Nebraska Extension entomologist Robert Wright. “The potential for
damage always exists,” says Wright. “Alfalfa weevil feeding can
cause severe yield and quality losses to first-cutting alfalfa.”
Wright suggests using a 15” sweep net as one way to quickly scout a
field for weevils. The net will also come in handy later in the season
when you’re scouting for potato leafhoppers and other insects in
alfalfa. Sweep nets are available through many agricultural suppliers,
including Great Lakes IPM, Gempler’s, Forestry Suppliers, BioQuip and
others. Cost is typically in the $30-50 range.
Nebraska state meteorologist Al Dutcher has developed a state map
predicting alfalfa weevil feeding activity based on accumulated
growing degree days. Learn more about alfalfa weevils, scouting
procedures and control options at University of Nebraska
May 15 is the early registration deadline for the American Forage
and Grassland Council’s 2010 Annual Conference. This year’s event
will take place June 21-23 at the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield,
Along with presentations and exhibits on the latest developments in
forage and grassland research, the conference will feature a national
forage spokesperson competition, forage bowl, national hay show,
emerging scientist competition, photo contest and more.
The second day of the meeting is devoted to tours. See “AFGC
Conference Goers To Do Field Research.”
Check the conference schedule
and registration details.
Texas Forage Field Day Is May
Enhancing forage production will be the focus of the O.D. Butler Forage
Field Day, scheduled for May 14 at Circle X Land and Cattle Co. in
Bryan, TX. Topics to be addressed include renovating and re-establishing
forage production, selecting grass varieties and brush and weed control
Registration will cost $20 and include materials and lunch. Producers
who join the Brazos Area Hay Producers Association for $50 will get free
field day registration, a hay sampling test and a hay directory listing.
For more field-day information, contact the Texas AgriLife Extension
office for Brazos County at 979-823-0129. See a YouTube video
from the 2009 Forage Field Day.
May 6 -- Beef Cattle And Forage Crops Field Day, Kansas
State University, Southeast Agricultural Research Center, Mound Valley
Unit, Mound Valley. Contact Lyle Lomas at email@example.com or 620-421-4826.
May 13 -- Legume Management In The Southeast: Field Day And Pasture
Walk, Central Georgia Research & Education Center, Eatonton. Get details.
May 15 -- Northeast Washington Hay Growers Association Annual Field
Day, Eric Ostby Farm and JKO Ranch, Chattaroy. Phone 509-725-4171.
May 19 -- University Of California Alfalfa & Forage Crops Field Day,
UC-Davis Agronomy Field Headquarters, Davis. Get additional details.
June 9-10 -- Four-State Dairy Nutrition And Management Conference,
Grand River Center, Dubuque, IA. Register
online or download
Or call the Wisconsin Agri-Service Association at 608-223-1111 or Jim
Salfer at 320-203-6093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 23 -- Dodge County/Fond du Lac County (WI) Forage Council
Twilight Meeting, Lemmenes Custom Farms, LLC, Waupun. Get more information.
Aug. 9-10 -- Kentucky Grazing School, Woodford County Extension
Office, Versailles. Preregistration required. See
Sept. 1-4 -- National Hay Association Annual Meeting, Griffin
Gate Marriott Resort, Lexington, KY. Watch for details.
Feb. 24, 2011 -- Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, Fayette County
Extension office, Lexington. Watch for details.
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